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Luxury hotel bid accused of ‘disingenuous’ tactics

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A Chinese company trying to get visas for nearly 200 workers from China for a waterfront hotel build in Auckland is under attack from unions over its tactics.

Unions say Fu Wah, which is developing the Park Hyatt hotel in the Wynyard Quarter, has misrepresented its views in an application to Immigration New Zealand writes Teuila Fuatai for Newsroom.

Fu Wah submitted the application for temporary work visas through its subsidiary Auckland Hotel Fitout Ltd in February. The final part of that application was submitted early last month, and has recently been released under the Official Information Act.

Prepared by the company’s lawyer and former Alliance MP Matt Robson, the application says Fu Wah has support from the Council of Trade Unions. It also mentions a meeting between Robson and a representative from the major construction industry union E-Tū, and at least two other meetings between Robson and a senior adviser at the Ministry of Social Development (which oversees Work and Income).

Both the CTU and E-Tū have labelled Fu Wah’s application as disingenuous. According to the organisations, initial contact from Fu Wah, through Robson, was welcomed. However, following a February 15 meeting between E Tū representative Joe Gallagher and Robson, which disclosed the company’s plans to pay its imported workers less than the market rate and deduct travel and accommodation expenses on top of that, all union support was withdrawn.

“I made it pretty clear that it was an untenable situation for my union, and we would not support it,” Gallagher says.

"Fu Wah used those early informal discussions to misrepresent our position to INZ"

- CTU national secretary Sam Huggard

The CTU, which tasked E-Tū with dealing with Fu Wah and Robson, says it withdrew its support of the application 11 days later - once it found out about the discussions and the lower pay rate.

Despite that, details of a proposed meeting between the CTU and Fu Wah “to discuss further cooperation and training of local labour” are included by Robson. He also says CTU national secretary Sam Huggard “is pleased with the application”.

Huggard points out the application fails to make any mention of the CTU’s change in position.

“Fu Wah used those early informal discussions to misrepresent our position to INZ,” he says.

“I would have hoped that Fu Wah would have been clearer in their application around the reasons why we didn’t support that.”

A close look at the application highlights Robson’s focus on his interaction with the CTU and Ministry of Social Development on behalf of Fu Wah.

In particular, a section of a letter written by him to Immigration NZ is titled: “Training programmes with CTU or Work and Income”.

Robson writes:

“I have referred INZ to the email correspondence with … the CTU.

“This has been supplemented with telephone conversations.

“[Redacted] was keen to hold further discussions on ways of cooperation with Fu Wah and this project and any possible future projects that Fu Wah may undertake in New Zealand.

“The initial proposal was that CTU representatives would come to Auckland, view the site and hold further discussions on possible cooperation.

“That meeting was set down for Friday 2 March.

“The CTU has cancelled that meeting for the time being.

“Fu Wah continues to be willing to meet with any relevant union body.”

Huggard says it was “disappointing” the application made no mention of the CTU and E-Tū’s objections to Fu Wah’s plans, and the reasons why.

“It’s pretty disingenuous,” Gallagher adds.

Details of at least two meetings between Robson and a “senior adviser with MSD” listed in the application are also contentious.

According to the Ministry of Social Development, “we haven’t had any meetings with Fu Wah regarding the hotel build”.

Gallagher says the lack of transparency around Fu Wah’s stated actions are a major concern. Earlier reaction to news the company had floated a $25 hourly pay rate in its meeting with E-Tū was another example of this. At the time, Robson refused to say what rate and remuneration conditions were discussed in the meeting.

Immigration New Zealand, which says it is unable to comment on Fu Wah’s application as it is still being processed, will not reveal the company’s proposed hourly pay rate outlined in its application for commercial reasons. However, a spokesperson did say it was higher than the rate E-Tū have referenced.

Newsroom has tried on several occasions to contact Robson but he has not returned calls.

{ A Newsroom release }  April 19, 2018   |||



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